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Candidates seek to overturn Indiana's anti-nepotism law

Candidates seek to overturn Indiana's anti-nepotism law

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HAMMOND | Seven region residents asked a federal judge Tuesday to overturn an Indiana law that bars them from working for the municipalities in which they're seeking public office.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court says Indiana's anti-nepotism law, which was passed in 2012, violates their rights under the Indiana and U.S. constitutions.

Matthew C. Claussen, Donald Huddleston, John McDaniel, Michael Opinker, Susan Pelfrey, Juda Parks and Scott Rakos have each filed to run for public office in the municipalities that employ them.

If elected in November, the candidates would be considered to have automatically quit their jobs upon taking office.

Attorney Adam Sedia wrote in the complaint that Indiana's anti-nepotism law in part deprives the candidates of their constitutional rights to free speech and due process of the law.

"The threat of being automatically divested of their primary means of financial support should they win election and serve in public office beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, has caused all plaintiffs to have doubts about whether they wish to continue with their respective candidacies and whether they wish to serve if elected to the positions for which they are candidates," Sedia wrote in the complaint.

A spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was not available for comment Tuesday night.

The lawsuit states Opinker is employed as a Hammond police officer. However, Opinker serves as chief fire inspector for the Hammond Fire Department.

East Chicago City Councilman Parks also is employed as an East Chicago police officer, according to the lawsuit.

Claussen, a Hobart police officer, also serves on the Hobart City Council.

Huddleston, a Lake Station police officer, and McDaniel, an employee of that city's Public Works Department, serve on the Lake Station City Council.

New Chicago Councilwoman Pelfrey works for that town's Water Department.

Hammond firefighter Scott Rakos recently filed for a seat on the Hammond City Council.

The candidates are asking the anti-nepotism law be declared unconstitutional. They're also seeking an order barring the state from considering them terminated from their jobs if they assume office Jan. 1. If a federal judge rules the law constitutes an illegal taking under the U.S. and state constitutions, the plaintiffs want compensation from the state.


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